The New York Times is raising questions about Senate candidate and current Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s claims he served in Vietnam:
At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.
“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”
There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.
The deferments allowed Mr. Blumenthal to complete his studies at Harvard; pursue a graduate fellowship in England; serve as a special assistant to The Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham; and ultimately take a job in the Nixon White House.
In 1970, with his last deferment in jeopardy, he enlisted in the Marine Reserve, landing a coveted spot in a unit in Washington, which virtually guaranteed that he would not be sent to Vietnam. The unit conducted part-time drills and other exercises and focused on local projects, like fixing a campground and organizing a Toys for Tots drive.
Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign manager, Mindy Myers, called the Times article “an outrageous distortion of Dick Blumenthal’s record of service.” She noted his six years of service in the Marine Corps Reserve and said he “received no special treatment from anyone.” Ok, fine he did serve honorably in the Marine Corps Reserve for six years, but what’s this then:
Mr. Blumenthal’s words couldn’t be more clear (emphasis mine):
In fact, we are failing many of our veterans again. We are failing them just as we did after the Vietnam War, just as we did our World War II and Korean [sic] veterans. This nation has a way of sending young men and women to war, and then forgetting them when they come home. And that is unforgivable. And I know Congressmen like Chris Shays are working hard to change that situation. We have learned something very important since the days I served in Vietnam, and you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it, Afghanistan or Iraq, we owe our military men and women unconditional support.
He didn’t say “Since I served during the Vietnam era” he said “… since the days I served in Vietnam”. I’d be willing to cut Mr. Blumenthal a little slack if this was one off incident that could be dismissed as a slip of the tongue, but as the Times’ story makes clear, Mr. Blumenthal has long used ambiguity and omission to obscure that he served during the Vietnam era not in Vietnam.
Time will tell, but I think it’s safe to say the race to replace Sen. Chris Dodd just got a whole lot more interesting… This was Mr. Blumenthal race to lose, right now he’s attempting to argue that his repeatedly “misstating” that he served in Vietnam is not a big deal, and for the moment at least every prominent Democrat in the state appears to be agreeing with him… the question is how will voters react and what other shoes are waiting to fall?
Personally, I think he’s toast. Actually in a sane world, where honor and integrity still mattered, he’d resign as Attorney General and quietly withdraw from public life, even Paul Begala calls his lies “indefensible” and “a catastrophic mistake”… but then this isn’t a sane world and it appears he intends to say in the race.
Update (5:50 p.m.): Former Congressman Chris Shays, friend of Mr. Blumenthal’s interviewed by the New York Times says he “that he had watched with worry as Mr. Blumenthal gradually embellished his military record over the years.”:
Former Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, a Republican who says he is a good friend of Richard Blumenthal’s, said in an interview Tuesday that he had watched with worry as Mr. Blumenthal gradually embellished his military record over the years…
Mr. Shays said the change occurred gradually in statements made over time.
“More and more it kept creeping in,” he said. “And it was very different than when he first described his service. I’m not surprised, because he just kept adding to the story, the more he told it. I think what happens in a case like this, it’s a tiny increment of change, but when you haven’t heard him in years you say, that’s a big difference.”…
Mr. Shays said he grew uncomfortable only last month, when he and Mr. Blumenthal attended a memorial for survivors of a building collapse in Bridgeport in 1987, and Mr. Blumenthal again brought up the Vietnam War. “He didn’t say he was there; he said, ‘when we came home’ and talked about soldiers being spat upon,” Mr. Shays said. “The inference was that he was in Vietnam.”
To be honest I don’t think Mr. Blumenthal set out to consciously deceive anyone about his service, he did serve honorably for six years in the Marine Corps Reserve. Unfortunately, it appears over the years he gradually started to embellish his record, and through ambiguity and omission and left the impression he’d served inVietnam when he hadn’t. That’s not excuse though, Mr. Blumenthal needs to be held accountable for the statements he’s made, regardless of whether they were made inadvertently or not.
- Vietnam service claimed by Conn. Senate hopeful Blumenthal is challenged – The Washington Post
- Blumenthal’s service during Vietnam era under scrutiny – News Times
- To the rescue: Dodd defends Blumenthal’s honor – Ed Morrissey, Hot Air
- Connecticut Democratic Senate Candidate Toast? – Jennifer Rubin, Contentions
- Phony Vietnam Vet In Connecticut Senate Race – This Ain’t Hell